Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Blame Game - Labor Day Travel Problems

Millions of folks will be traveling this Labor Day weekend, and more than a few of us will face flight delays and cancellations. As we've seen all too often lately, the airlines and their CEOs will blame anything and everything for their problems. Take a look at our handy checklist and try to guess what they'll point the finger at next...

Click here to download your own copy of the checklist!

1 comment:

W. Kelly said...

I am an owner of a modest single engine aircraft an have been an airline pilot for sixteen years. This ridiculous "checklist" directed toward airline CEO's is mostly nonsense. I take the points one by one. Point one..."Blame the weather". Hey, the public should be aware that weather does play a huge part in how smoothly the ATC system functions. Chicago O'Hare is a perfect example. On a good weather day, that airport can handle an arrival or departure every 15 seconds using 4 runways. When you throw thunderstorms or a squall line into the mix, it all falls apart, but what the heck do you expect? Yes, folks, there really are weather delays. It's not a big lie. That is not to say that a gate agent will tell you that weather is the reason your flight is delayed and it doesn't seem to make sense. The comment I love from passengers is when we finally arrive and they say, "hey the weather looks fine, what's the problem?". Yeah, of course it looks fine, but an hour ago when we were holding or sitting on the ground hundreds of miles away, it was really, really bad. Another frustration for passengers listening to delay information from an airport agent invlolves the human reality that by the time information passes from the source, whether it be from the pilots or the dispatchers, and that information then goes through the local airport operations people and finally to the agent, the story may have lost some of its relevance from all the translations. Compound that by the fact the the agent is an expert in booking your flight or rerouting you, but is not a meteorologist or familiar with the operational capabilities of the aircraft in any given weather situation. The agents do the best they can on the front lines, but they need to be cut a little slack with the knowledge that people behind the scenes are doing everything they can to dispatch your flight. Point two... "blame a computer, after all one laptop controls all flights..." Please, the airlines do not control their flights with one laptop anymore than the FAA does, but sometimes computers do fail. This remark on the list is perhaps the most irresponsible. Point three..."Blame the airports" (for lack of capacity vs. airline scheduling). Hey, don't blame the airlines for overscheduling flights. They only schedule based on demand by the flying public. The problem in this scenario is the number of people who want to fly at any given time, so blame the fact that we can't afford to build the infrastructure to handle it. Furthermore, I hesitate to keep using weather as an example, but the fact is that in most scenarios airlines schedule flights based on an airport's capacity on a a good weather day. For one airline to not do so would be ludicrous since a competitor whould simply see a gap in service and increase their flights. Having said that, for airports where weather or other delays are chronic, I know that my airline will "overblock" a flight, which means that the published flight time will be significantly more than normally needed in perfect conditons. A buffer is thereby added to compensate for potential delays. I assure the public that airline CEO's have no desire to build a schedule so tight that excessive numbers of flights are cancelled and passengers inconvenienced. That would be expensive and a bad business plan. Point four..."blame the runways" Well, ditto from point three. Point five..."blame the pilots" Huh? CEO's are not typically blaming their pilots for delays. They know the pilots want to get where they're going as much as the passengers. It has been my experience that crew delays are among the least significant of any type of delay. Point six..."blame private planes". Okay, this has been going on and as such it is the only part of the checklist that is remotely reputable. Private planes are not to blame and shouldn't be used as scapegoats. Unfortunately this still leaves us with five of the six comments on this checklist as virtual nonsense. I've been on the AOPA's side in many aspects of the funding debate and other issues because I believed that they were acting objectively in most cases. The fact that this "checklist" which only stirs up public resentment toward airlines made it onto to the AOPA'a website puts that organisation's credibility at risk. Criticize the airlines where criticism is warranted. The CEO's are not angels and airline employees have had a rough time in many areas in the last few years, but do not dilute and muddy legitimate criticism (of which there is some)with unfounded halftruths about the pitfalls of managing an airline on a daily basis. Remember, this is a public forum and it does no good to run down the airlines by making travellers think they are constantly being lied to.